Cannabinoids, Pain, and Opioid Use Reduction: The Importance of Distilling and Disseminating Existing Data.
The high prevalence of chronic pain conditions combined with an over-reliance on opioid prescriptions has resulted in an opioid epidemic and a desperate need for solutions. There is some debate about whether cannabis might play a role in addressing chronic pain conditions as well as the opioid epidemic. Recent surveys suggest that a large number of people are using cannabis as a treatment for pain and to reduce use of opioids, and cannabis-derived products demonstrate at least modest efficacy in the treatment of pain in randomized controlled trials. In addition, surveillance studies from countries that have approved the use of Sativex, which is a cannabis-based product, have demonstrated that a combination of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol has low potential for harm, is well tolerated, and is helpful to patients. Given the number of people in the United States who are already using cannabis to manage pain and opioid use in state-regulated markets, it is imperative to conduct additional research in these areas, and to disseminate information on how to minimize harm and maximize any benefits of using cannabinoids to mitigate pain and reduce opioid use. The purpose of this article is to call attention to the fact that cannabis is being used in the management of chronic pain. Thus, this article also provides a set of guidelines on how to approach using cannabis to treat pain.